Phonetics Roadshow—Freya Shipley SpecGram Vol CLXI, No 3 Contents The Cycle of Language Exchange in Pinnacle Sherpa: new evidence for the reversibility of language shift—Keith W. Slater

Texan for Linguists

Katy Jo Parker
Truman ‘Tex’ Beauregard

This article is not about the descriptively interesting linguistic features of Texan dialects of English (such as incipient fixin’, singular they, modal stacking, second person plural y’all, ain’t and cain’t, bidness, coke for soda, etc.) nor is it about any of the interesting Spanish-related linguistic phenomena in Texas (such as “Spanglish”, Chicano and Tejano English, code-switching, or Pachuco slang).

Rather, this article is about the colorful language and evocative phrasing that makes Texan English a much-talked-about dialect, even (and especially) outside linguistic circles. Linguistics as a whole should seek to emulate Texan Englishand in fact the field should do anything it can to make the field itself more talked-about (especially) outside linguistic circles.

Jonathan van der Meer’s superficially similar proposal, made in “The Assumption of Slang” has been a disastrous and dismal failure. The primary difference between our proposal and his is that ours seeks to unify linguists and non-linguists with interesting turns of phrase, while van der Meer seeks to divide the world into “cliquish groups” with impenetrable jargon.

The following Texan-inspired colloquialisms should be worked into linguists’ conversations with both linguists and non-linguists.

· “All theory and no data”
· full of talk, but lacking in substance
· cf. “All hat and no cattle”

· “He could sell consonants to a Ubykh”
· having unusual powers of persuasion
· cf. “He could sell ice to an Eskimo”

· “Older than Proto-Sapiens”
· old, ridiculously old
· cf. “Older than dirt”

· “Dumber than a department of Sapir-Whorfians”
· dumb, really dumb
· cf. “Dumber than a box of hammers”

· “I can transcribe it for you, but I can’t pronounce it for you”
· to get the benefit of something you have to do the work yourself
· cf. “I can explain it for you, but I can’t understand it for you”

· “Meaner than an emeritus stratificationalist”
· pretty darn mean, especially dangerous if cornered
· cf. “Meaner than a junkyard dog”

· “He couldn’t find his /æ/ with both hands and a vowel chart”
· quite clueless
· cf. “He couldn’t find his ass with both hands and a flashlight”

· “He ain’t got the sense Chomsky gave a descriptivist”
· pretty darn dumb, liable to do something stupidly embarrassing in public
· cf. “He ain’t got the sense god gave a goat”

· “I’m the one parsing this phoneme”
· I don’t care if I’m doing it wrong, I’m doing it, not you, so butt the hell out
· cf. “I’m the one milking this duck”

· “Phony as a tri-branching tree”
· utterly and obviously fake
· cf. “Phony as a three dollar bill”

· “If it was an /s/ it would’ve fricated you”
· whatever you are looking for and not finding is both close by and obvious
· cf. “If it was a snake it would’ve bit you”

· “I trust him about as far as I can advance my tongue root”
· I don’t trust him at all
· cf. “I trust him about as far as I can throw him”

· “She ain’t got a click of good sense”
· she doesn’t have any common sense
· cf. “She ain’t got a lick of good sense”

· “I’m going to knock you into the middle of the next syllable”
· I’m going to hit you quite hard
· cf. “I’m going to knock you into the middle of next week”

· “I wouldn’t unstress him if he was a schwa”
· I wouldn’t exert the tiniest amount of effort for him
· cf. “I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire”

· “Ain’t nothing in the middle of the mouth but schwas and dead languages”
· it is vital to take a stand on matters of import
· cf. “Ain’t nothin’ in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos”

· “I didn’t just fall off the tip of Chomsky’s tongue”
· I’m not entirely naive and inexperienced
· cf. “I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck”

· “He looks like he’s been pronounced fortis and transcribed with non-standard symbols by a conlanger”
· looking very haggard, as a result of mistreatment
· cf. “He looks like he’s been rode hard and put up wet”

Phonetics RoadshowFreya Shipley
The Cycle of Language Exchange in Pinnacle Sherpa: new evidence for the reversibility of language shiftKeith W. Slater
SpecGram Vol CLXI, No 3 Contents